As Miranda July's celebrity-email-based art project "We Think Alone" winds to a close, a burning question—and possibly a coded message for help—has emerged: What was Kirsten Dunst doing on May 4?
We have already established that, thanks to her take-no-prisoners, give-no-fucks, I-had-a-dream-about-buying-a-warm-looking-halter-top-like-a-sweater-but-a-halter attitude, actress and Taurus Dunst is winning the unofficial celebrity contest that is "We Think Alone." (For those not familiar, the project consists of a series of weekly email forwards from July, in which she republishes communications from celebrity friends like Dunst, Lena Dunham and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.)
But what if something more is at stake? What if more sinister pursuits than the game we call fame are afoot?
As of Monday’s installment (“An email that’s an apology”), the 18th, the project is 90 percent complete. In a mere fortnight it will be over. This small SMTP window into the epistolary lives of Yahoo!’s most famous users will soon slam shut on our skeleton fingers, and the only way for us to find out what Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wants for Christmas will be to track him down and ask him ourselves.
But at the 11th hour, well after the players have been ranked, the hierarchies established, the die cast, Dunst’s story has deepened and become complicated. Close followers have mapped out patterns and read between the lines, collecting clues and hidden signs. Kirsten Dunst is no longer begrudgingly participating in a whimsical art project. She is writing—and living—a spy thriller.
The more perceptive scholars of Dunst will likely have felt a twinge of déjà vu upon reading the timestamp of Monday’s email (subject line: "Re: "): May 4, 2013, 12:36:37 PM EDT.
This is the third email from the series that Dunst sent on that date.
Nearly one-quarter of the emails Kirsten Dunst submitted to Miranda July were sent during the 24-hour period from 9:20 p.m. May 3, 2013 to 9:20 p.m. May 4, 2013. Out of the thousands of emails she could have chosen to display in this public venue, three came from May 4.
WHAT HAPPENED TO KIRSTEN DUNST ON MAY 4?
Using the enigmatic clues Dunst has hidden for us within the depths of Miranda July's email project, the information that can be gleaned from paparazzi photos of her comings and goings, and our own, old-fashioned intuition, we have attempted to reconstruct Kirsten Dunst's May 4 as best we are able.
The degree to which the following account is accurate can be known only to Dunst and God.
1:10 a.m.: Dunst is alone in her hotel room.
Coming down from an accomplishment high after completing a questionnaire about her friend, director Sofia Coppola some four hours prior (SEE: We Think Alone, Week 4: “Business”), she becomes concerned with the mood at the headquarters of her secret employer, the clandestine private intelligence agency Global Rogue Asset Munitions Service, or GRAMS. The vibes of GRAMS are a frequent subject of Dunst’s emails. On April 9th (SEE: We Think Alone, Week 6: “An email to your mom”), she emailed her mom to inquire whether GRAMS might attend a “Josh Groban July 4th Fireworks Spectacular,” likely as a morale-boosting exercise after a botched operation in Laos—the result of a highly placed and still-unidentified mole—left nearly one third of the agency's field agents dead.
Dunst bounced out of the service after that. She dove into her cover identity, making movies, giving interviews, promoting the Blu-ray release of Bachelorette. Trying to push the things she'd seen to the back of her head.
But the life has a funny way of sticking with you. An odd remark. A sidelong glance. A series of dates that don't match up. A small tattoo, usually covered by a sock, on her new assistant's ankle. You can try to forget, but a memory never really leaves you.
And now Dunst writes, in code, from a burner email account, to her retired comrade—identified for security purposes as “"M" to her "Kiki"—about coming back to the force. (We Think Alone, Week 15: "An email about fear"):
From: Kirsten Dunst
Sent: Sat, May 4, 2013 1:10 am
Subject: Grams, it's Kiki
We need you to come back and hang here. Grams needs some new vibes. Everyone moved out. Kik
Sent from my iPhone
1:11 a.m. – 8:08 a.m.: Dunst lies on her back upon her perfectly made king-sized hotel bed. She stares at the ceiling, alert and rarely blinking. Her fists tensing and loosening as she progresses through a series of krav maga techniques in her mind.
Her thoughts wander: to M., to GRAMS. To the ill-fated Laos op. Dunst left the agency after Laos—as much as anyone can ever really leave it. She was tired of killing, tired of hiding. Tired of watching her friends and comrades die.
And now she was here: In a hotel, without backup, without equipment, without weapons, nearly cut off from GRAMS, surrounded by possible counter-agents. With only her training.
And the identity of the mole.
She breathes in, deeply, and waits.
8:09 a.m.: Dunst’s assistant knocks on the door of their adjoining suites to rouse her. Dunst leaps up. “Can’t I sleep five more minutes?" she shouts, crumpling the comforter in a heap at the foot of her bed. She untucks the sheets. She yanks a single blond hair out of her head and places it at a 51° angle on her pillow.
8:15 a.m.: Dunst’s assistant returns to check on her progress and hears the shower running. How different our lives might have been, she muses, if we were merely an actress and her assistant rather than two spies from rival clandestine private intelligence agencies — and I a double agent.
Inside the locked bathroom, Dunst unwraps two bar soaps and a sewing kit.
8:16 a.m.: Dunst hears her hotel room door swing shut as her assistant leaves. She crouches, and waits. Sixty tense seconds later, she hears the door open and shut almost imperceptibly as her assistant actually leaves. Dunst places a call to guest services and requests a spare container of toothpaste.
9:00 a.m. – 9:30 a.m.: Continental breakfast!
10:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.: Kirsten Dunst watches her assistant watch her browse the racks at a half dozen SoHo boutiques. This is a dangerous game, Dunst thinks, but it is the game I was born to play.
12:33 p.m.: Kirsten Dunst feels her phone vibrate in the back pocket of her jeans and an armful of garments. “Be right back!” she says. Her assistant smiles and offers to hold her purse, her eyes falling on a dress Dunst is gripping between her fingers: The wrong size, and wrong for her coloring. She fingers the small capsule hung from a chain around her neck.
12:35 p.m.: Inside the dressing room, Kirsten Dunst forces the single chair under the door handle, pulls her phone out of her pocket and kicks off her jeans. A communique from GRAMS’ head of operations, Agent L. He asks if the swallows have come back to Capistrano.
Dunst's heart, regulated from years of training and experience, maintains a steady beat.
12:36 p.m.: Kirsten Dunst replies. (SEE: We Think Alone, Week 18: “An email that’s an apology”):
From: Kirsten Dunst
Date: May 4, 2013, 12:36:37 PM EDT
Shit! I'm in NY and then Atlanta till the weekend. With going away and b-day the week went in a blur, I'm sorry I've been so bad about it. Can I do it as soon as I get home?
Sent from my iPhone
12:37:40 p.m.: Dunst puts her jeans back on and removes the chair from the door. Before leaving the dressing room, she musses her hair.
12:37:58 p.m.: Kirsten Dunst’s assistant stands silently at the dressing room door. Her smile is incomprehensible. “None of them worked out?”
Dunst smiles back. “Sometimes I have to make hard decisions.”
12:38:04 p.m.: "By the way, why do you carry around old hotel soaps, Kirsten?" her assistant asks, handing Dunst her bag back. Dunst cocks her head, and turns.
12:38:06 p.m.: "I like the way they make my bag smell."
12:39 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.: [WHEREABOUTS DURING THIS TIME PERIOD ARE UNKNOWN]
6:08p.m.: In the hotel lobby, Kirsten Dunst requests an Uber SUV and writes an email to her retired colleague, M., whom she is meeting for a drink. (SEE: We Think Alone, Week 10: “An email you decided not to send.”)
From: Kirsten Dunst
Sent: Sat, May 4, 2013 6:08 pm
Subject: Re: hair/makeup options - Glaad Awards
I'll just uber there, also
6:09 p.m.: Before Dunst has time to send the email, a black SUV arrives.
6:10 p.m.: The car peels out of the hotel parking lot. Dunst’s phone falls into her purse. Raising her gaze to the rearview mirror, she sees her driver is wearing dark aviator shades. He has no ID photo. She asks his name. She hears the doors lock.
Dunst reaches into her purse and grabs her soap.
6:11 p.m.: A figure springs up from the third row of seats and Dunst feels the cold hard barrel of a gun pressed against her temple. An electronically distorted voice: "You’ll die wondering." Kirsten closes her eyes and squeezes her hands into fists. "Hello, assistant," she says, and treasures for a moment the small break in concentration she can sense in her would-be assassin.
The SUV pulls into a nearly deserted parking lot.
6:12 p.m.: Dunst cracks the soap in half. A glint of light catches the assistant's eye as a set of miniature sewing kit scissors falls into Dunst's hand. Dunst takes a deep breath.
6:13 p.m. - 6:28 p.m.: The swallows come back to Capistrano.
6:30 p.m.: Bleeding from a gash in her head, soap caked under her fingernails, Dunst emerges from the SUV, alone. She arranges her bangs over the cut and walks toward a group of teenagers who have been practicing cool skateboard tricks a few hundred yards away.
Behind her, the SUV explodes. Sirens in the distance. The teenagers stare, open-mouthed. If they turn around they might see Dunst open the rear door of an idling sedan; they might catch a glimpse of a silhouette waiting for her in back; they might notice that the car peeling away with Dunst has no license plate.
Instead they watch an SUV smolder in an empty parking lot of a darkening city.
Emails to Dunst's representatives were not returned... Curious.
[Image by Jim Cooke, photo via Getty]